The Luka the draw

How much will Spurs miss Luka Modric? The numbers don't lie. Photo courtesy of caughtoffside.com
How much will Spurs miss Luka Modric? The numbers don't lie. Photo courtesy of caughtoffside.com

How much will Spurs miss Luka Modric? The numbers don't lie. Photo courtesy of caughtoffside.com

It’s a North London sell-off, but Arsenal isn’t the only club to see its best player go. Luka Modric completed his transfer to Spanish giants Real Madrid Monday, bringing the saga that has plagued Spurs fans all summer to a close.

The Croatian midfielder has been pulling the strings for Tottenham for the last four seasons, tallying 17 goals and 20 assists in all competitions in 160 appearances. But as solid as those numbers are, they don’t do justice to the buoyant effect his presence has had on the team.

For the six seasons preceding Modric’s arrival, Spurs struggled to finish in the top half of the league table, just barely getting themselves over the hump on two occasions when they finished 10th and 9th, slipping below it when they settled in 11th after the 2007-2008 season and embarrassingly close to relegation in 14th during the 2003-2004 season.

Modric’s landing at White Hart Lane in 2008 coincided conveniently with a step up in quality, finishing in the top four two of the four seasons he played with them. The 2009-2010 season even marked the first time Tottenham FC qualified for the Champions League.

So how exactly did Modric influence Tottenham’s standing so much? Scoring 17 goals and setting up 20 in four seasons is nice, but certainly not earth shattering. Juan Mata performed almost as admirably for Chelsea last season alone and they still finished 6th.

Where Modric’s real value shines through is in the players around him. On top of his own goal creation, Modric’s tenure with Spurs improved average production per-game for several of the team’s key offensive players. Jermain Defoe and Aaron Lennon are particularly interesting cases here, since they both played several seasons with Tottenham before Modric joined the squad. Defoe was a five-year veteran of the team by the time the Croatian came around, having made 170 appearances for the club in that time. Over the following four seasons with Modric in the team, Defoe would improve on his goals scored, shots taken, and goals assisted per game, more than doubling the last from 0.06 per game to 0.13 per game. All this despite seeing a significant drop in his shooting accuracy as his shots on goal fell from 1.42 per game to 1.24 per game.

The same is true of Aaron Lennon in the midfield, who made 35 more appearances during Modric's tenure than in the three seasons before. In those games, he scored 15 goals, up from 9 before, took 130 shots, up from 80, and made 32 assists, up from 24. Lennon’s average production per game in each category also increased, despite his accuracy dipping as well, and he suffered more fouls per game, indicating that opposing players considered him more of a threat.

Gareth Bale is perhaps the most difficult player to read in this regard, having made only 9 appearances for Tottenham before Modric swooped in. His goal and assist tallies for the pre-Modric era, therefore, aren’t particularly representative, even as averages. The one number that does jump out, though, is his average shots per game, a stat that leaped from 1.67 per game to 2.25 per game after Modric’s arrival.

This slew of numbers just serves to confirm an old soccer cliché, that Modric is a player who not only contributes to the team directly, but also makes the players around him better. Spurs will have a tough time replacing their midfield maestro, and it will be interesting to see how the players mentioned above continue to perform in his absence.

Which players will be missed most by their old clubs this season? Share your opinion in the comments.